XO laptops are loved, but use is limited in Birmingham

Two years after the low-cost XO laptop program was introduced to Birmingham, Ala., city schools, students say they love the $200 machines but use them more at home than at school, reports the Birmingham News. Just two of 38 elementary schools are equipped with wireless capabilities to run the internet. Students can still use other programs on the computer, as well as games and a chat function that allows them to talk to classmates, but they cannot reach the World Wide Web at school. District administrators hope to have the remaining elementary schools online by August. The laptop program was the brainchild of former Mayor Larry Langford, who negotiated the purchase of 15,000 computers for $3 million. More than 1,500 incoming first-graders also received the computers this year. While the laptops were purchased by the city for all Birmingham first- through fifth-graders, money for infrastructure upgrades needed to fully use the computers has been slow coming. In 2008, school system technology officials estimated the cost of technology upgrades to be at least $1.3 million. “The kids know a lot about these XOs and love them,” said Teresa Hughes, technology coordinator at Barrett Elementary. But whether teachers are using them in class is the question…

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